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Vox pops: Pakistanis speak on historic vote

What do voters in Lahore hope to achieve in Saturday's election?

Last Modified: 11 May 2013 17:49
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Millions of voters began casting their ballots in Pakistanís key general elections [EPA]

Lahore, PAKISTAN - Voters have turned out in large numbers across Pakistan for the country’s historic 2013 general election, with the country’s Election Commission saying it expects turnout to top 50 percent nationwide.

In Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, the elections are seen to be a two horse race, between Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and this year’s wildcard, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). And, while there have been reports of irregularities in other areas, particularly Karachi, the country’s largest city, in Lahore, voting has been seen to be largely free and fair.

Al Jazeera spoke to voters in several Lahore constituencies to gauge their sentiments around this election.

Falak Ali, 25, office worker

 
[Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

“I’ve come here to bring about change in Pakistan. We are seeing the same old faces, and the same broken promises by political leaders. We want them to do something for Pakistan,” he says.

“My vote is for Pakistan. I am voting for the tiger [election symbol of the PML-N!

“The PTI does not have experience, they are making unrealistic promises to the public.”

Ali, a first time voter, said that he was “afraid” to vote in 2008, but this year he “couldn’t even sleep last night because of the excitement”.

“Last time,” he says, “someone tried to force me to vote for a party. This year, even if my party loses, I am here of my own accord.”

Khwaja Nadeem, 48, businessman

 
[Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

“I think these elections are being held in a much better way than before. There have been no problems. Everything is happening according to a plan, properly,” he says.

“I have voted for the PML-N – I voted for them in 2008 as well. According to me, the whole business community is voting for the PML-N, because Nawaz Sharif understands the problems of businessmen and he will make a bright future for Pakistanis.

“There’s no chance of rigging this time. The election commission has made it very difficult to rig, because things are very strict this year.

Adil Liaquat, 23, accountant

 
[Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

“Hopefully change will come to Pakistan with these elections. This is the beginning of change,” says Liaquat.

“I am a local PTI worker – what we call a ‘change-maker’. This year people are a lot more aware, they are coming to the polls on their own, without our having to cajole them.”

Liaquat is a first-time voter, but says that he has had experience observing previous elections, and this year’s polls are different.

“It is definitely different. There is better security, and there has been no interference on the part of party workers or hangers on. This time the entrances to the polling stations were well controlled.

“We have confidence in the result – but our confidence is 80 percent. The election commission has done good work, but they were also slightly misguided. But we will follow our leader [Imran Khan] on [the issue of rejecting or accepting results]. We’ll go with him.

“We will have to accept it. What else can we do?”

Sajida Mir, 44, former PPP member of provincial assembly

 
[Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

"We have never let our vote go uncast, this is the very basis of democracy. It is our right and our duty. And without women, democracy is lost.

“This time we have seen that there were no camps to pressure [voters]. Hopefully in 2018 we’ll see even more women running for election.

“This year the youth vote is becoming apparent, people want change. The fight is between three parties: the PPP, the PML-N and the PTI. The MQM is also strong in Karachi, and the ANP in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. All parties must be allowed to operate and campaign. I think even now people are not aware of the [playing field not being level].

“I am a local, I am from this area [of Lahore]. I know the issues. And people come to local leaders.”

Muhammad Arshad, 60, fruit seller

 
[Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

“I have always had the enthusiasm to vote – and I am voting for the PML-N! They are a pro-poor party. Nawaz Sharif is the voice of the poor. I have been voting for him for the last 20 years. “This year the election has been very different. It’s very clean, I’ve never seen it like this. Last time everything used to be run by the stick – this time I am very thankful to the election commission for having such clean elections.”

“I have always have the enthusiasm to vote – and I am voting for the PML-N! They are a pro-poor party.

Nawaz Sharif is the voice of the poor. I have been voting for him for the last 20 years.

“This year the election has been very different. It’s very clean, I’ve never seen it like this. Last time everything used to be run by the stick – this time I am very thankful to the election commission for having such clean elections.”

Muhammad Waqas, 24, electrician


[Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]
“I want to vote for those who are the best leaders, and that is the PML-N.

“This is the first time I have ever voted. I was busy last time [in 2008], but this time I thought it was very important to vote.

“I hope that the elections won’t be rigged as we have seen in the past. This time the arrangements seemed very fair. There has been no pressure from any leaders here at the polling station.

“I will support Imran Khan [who is the PML-N’s opponent in Waqas’ constituency], if he does work. I didn’t vote for him today, but if he does good work for the country, I will support him.

“We just want the betterment of the nation.”

Sheila Masih, 65, housewife

 
[Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

“I felt very happy when I cast my vote. I hope that we get a good government after these elections.

“I have voted before, but this time we saw there were many more people, much more awareness among people.

“I’ve voted for the PTI…maybe they can make things better in this country. Things are so bad right now. There is no electricity, no natural gas, no jobs.

“I’m not sure if I’ll have confidence in the result or think that it is rigged, once its announced. Maybe I will, or maybe I won’t. I just don’t know.”

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Al Jazeera
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